NFL: Which head coaches are on the hot seat in 2019?

With the NFL season nearing, some coaches will be on the hot seat. Whose seat is the hottest?

Every NFL season, head coaches are put to the test – put on a hot seat, if you will – to see if they can change their franchise. While the ultimate goal is to hoist a Lombardi Trophy, the realistic approach is to be better than last year.

With the 2019 season rapidly approaching, coaches and players can only hope for a better year. Last season, eight coaches were fired after down seasons with the organization. The hope is the new man in charge can change the culture.

But several coaches could be out the door after failing to live up to expectations. The hot seat could start to boil or simmer based off their success this year. Right now, maybe 15 coaches are safe from actually losing their job while the other 17 could be freshening their resume come January.

With teams hoping to bounce back and coaches looking to be a part of the long-term plan, here are our picks for the coaches on the hot seat heading into the regular season.

10. Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

It’s probably weird a first-year head coach is already on the hot seat, but Freddie Kitchens is different. Following his success as the interim offensive coordinator, John Dorsey elected to retain the 39-year-old and make him in charge of the Cleveland Browns. He then went out and made the team look like contenders. He did this with the additions of Sheldon Richardson, Kareem Hunt, Greedy Williams, Mack Wilson and All-Pro wideout Odell Beckham Jr.

The Browns offense was one of the top units under the direction of Kitchens, who helped lead the team for a 7-8-1 season in 2018. With the new acquisitions, the Browns are expected to compete for not just an AFC North title, but also a Super Bowl. With a balanced offense led by Baker Mayfield and a defense with the rising sensation Myles Garrett, expectations are high this season.

This makes Kitchens a liability if the team fails to pick up wins. If the Browns finish with a sub .500 record, who’s to blame besides the play calling? Barring injuries and the progression of young stars, this is one of the more exciting franchises in football.

For now, he’s safe. That could change in a season if Dorsey isn’t patient and wants to bring home a championship soon.

9. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

It will be a shocker if the Vikings part ways with Zimmer following the season. While he could retire or ask to leave the team, it just doesn’t seem likely they would part ways with a coach who has had success.

Expectations were high for Minnesota last season with the addition of quarterback Kirk Cousins. The team was less than a year removed from the NFC Championship game and had signed a majority of their key stars to long-term contracts. Cousins, however, underwhelmed in critical games, the offensive line was atrocious, and the team finished 8-7-1, failing to make the postseason.

Since arriving in Minneapolis, Zimmer has only suffered one losing season. That was in his first year with an underachieving staff. Since then, the Vikings have made the postseason twice and finished with eight-plus wins each year. Cousins should be on a short leash since the team improved the offensive line, but Zimmer’s status should be safe right now. If Rick Spielman is fired, anything can happen.

Just stop drafting cornerbacks in the first round, and Zimmer should at least have one more year before the organization thinks of making a move.

8. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans

Bill O’Brien is like an all-you-can-eat buffet; you know he’s terrible for you, but you’re probably going back until you explode. Even as an average coach, he’s outlasted a pair of general managers and fallen into the grace of the McNair family.

On record alone, O’Brien has the credentials to be a head coach in the league. In five years, he’s only had one losing season where everyone that mattered was injured at some point. He’s also taken Houston to the postseason three times as the representative for the AFC South.

Once in the postseason, Houston has struggled to make an impact with their only win coming against a Connor Cook lead Raiders. With Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins leading the offense, Houston should be one of the league’s highest-scoring teams. O’Brien, however, has failed to address the offensive line woes and allowed key players to walk in free agency.

Houston has to be sickly horrendous while fully healthy for O’Brien to be canned. Even then, that might not be enough to change the culture down at NRG Drive.

7. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

Reports stated last season that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh could be on the hot seat if he failed to show improvement. Once the team switched over to Lamar Jackson, everything seemed to click. The team won six of their last seven games and took over the AFC North by storm.

Heading into 2019, there’s no clear cut answer on what Harbaugh’s future could be in Baltimore. While the team did add Earl Thomas to their top-ranked defense, it might not be enough to make them a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Everything will rely on Jackson and his progression in his sophomore season.

Since joining the Ravens, the brother of good ole Jim has finished with only one losing campaign. If fired, he’s bound to be the top name on the market for new head coaches. Now that Eric DeCosta is running the show, he may look for someone to better enhance Jackson’s skills.

Baltimore would be foolish to let go of Harbaugh, but it’s certainly not out of the question.

6. Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons are a fan favorite to rebound in 2019. It’s hard not to imagine since the team suffered multiple injuries early and nearly finished with a .500 record just a season ago. And since joining the staff, Dan Quinn has only had one losing season as the man calling the shots.

There’s a reality where the organization could be tired of Quinn underachieving with a fully healthy roster. Despite taking the Falcons to the postseason twice, fans are still not over the team blowing a 28-3 lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI. Quinn made the right move by firing both Steve Sarkisian and Marquand Manuel after a down season.

If the Falcons fail to live up to the hype, miss the postseason and struggle to pick up victories, Quinn is the one to blame, right? He’s a good coach, but his seat is at least lukewarm right now. If Atlanta misses the postseason, one organization will be getting an excellent defensive coordinator next year.

5. Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions

Bill Belichick is the G.O.A.T of coaching in the modern era. Some would argue he’s the greatest coach of all-time thanks to his six Super Bowl victories over the past 20 years. But just because he’s an excellent coach, that doesn’t mean his disciples are going to be stars when they get the opportunity.

Matt Patricia was expected to be the next great hire in the NFL following his incredible success as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator. With the Detroit Lions looking to be New England light, he was the perfect candidate to take over. The offense struggled, the defense missed opportunities to succeed and Detroit finished 6-10 during Patrica’s first season.

The Lions will need to improve this season or Patrica could pull a Josh McDaniels and head back to New England. With a revamped defense led by Trey Flowers, there’s little excuse for Detroit to finish near the bottom of rankings there. Despite playing in a tough NFC North division, the Lions’ offense is pretty decent and can score points under the right direction.

A double-digit loss season probably means the end of Patrica’s tenure in Motor City.

4. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

Some coach’s time will just run-up in a city. That’s the case of Ron Rivera as he enters his ninth season as the Carolina Panthers head coach. Carolina looked like they would be making a trip to postseason last year following a hot start to the year. They then lost seven of their last eight and finished with a 7-9 record.

Carolina burned out faster than a convenience store candle probably due to the lingering injury towards Cam Newton. The former MVP had been playing with a bad shoulder and continued to take hits to add more damage. This offseason, Newton underwent surgery to fix his throwing motion and hopefully solve the problem.

The Panthers play in possibly the toughest division in football but are a very sound team. With a quality defense, emerging weapons and perhaps the most versatile player in Christian McCaffery, a sub .500 season just won’t cut it. Rivera has suffered five losing seasons and is running out of lives now, making his seat seem like it’s on fire. If Carolina doesn’t make a postseason push, he’s likely out of a job.

3. Pat Shurmur, New York Giants

Pat Shurmur was the head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 2011-2012. He went 9-23 throughout two seasons. Following his success with the Vikings in 2017, Shurmur received a second chance with the New York Giants.

A new chance, same result.

Part of the blame has to be put on the higher-ups since they’re calling most of the shots. Trading away a top offensive piece was insane, failing to move back to draft a running back was stupid and the franchise refuses to move on from Eli Manning under center. But the on the field action does fall a tad on Shumur’s shoulder, making him a hot seat candidate.

If the Giants are fine with being mediocre, Shurmur likely will have time to build the team. It starts with allowing Daniel Jones to compete for the starting quarterback job following a quality preseason outing. If they are stuck picking in the top 10 again, it’s going to be hard to justify keeping Shurmur around much longer.

2. Doug Maronne, Jacksonville Jaguars

Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars actually could have made it to the Super Bowl heading into halftime at the AFC Championship against the Patriots. Then Blake Bortles became Blake Bortles, Tom Brady became Tom Brady, and the rest was history.

Doug Marrone can’t take all the blame for the woeful 2018 season, but he’s certainly a name high up on the hot seat meter. The team still had Bortles under center but digressed all across the field despite having a top-level defense. Bortles is gone, and players are healthy, making Jacksonville a contender yet in the AFC South.

Nick Foles isn’t an elite quarterback, but he’s an upgrade at the position. That means the team will need to improve back to an above .500 record this season. With the hiring of John DeFilippo, hopefully, Jacksonville’s offense will match their defense and contend for a division title. If not, Maronne will likely take the blame and be looking for work this offseason.

He’s not the main problem, but you have to cut off the top head if you want to see any change in culture.

1. Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

Was there another pick? After five years of underperforming and only one winning season, Jay Gruden is the top pick to be the first man fired this year on the hot seat o-meter.

Last season, Washington probably should have been better than a 7-9 roster. The team was thriving under Alex Smith and started the year 6-3. Smith broke his leg against the Houston Texans, and everything went downhill. Colt McCoy suffered a season-ending injury, the team looked lost with Josh Johnson, and they only would win one more game.

Washington has to be the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL right now. All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams refuses to return, the offense is consistently missing weapons due to injury and they always seem to blow their lead. Not all of it is Gruden’s fault, but he’s fallen out of grace with the ownership and should be ready to clear out his office.

Dwayne Haskins will need to have an RG3 type year in D.C. if Gruden wants to stick around. That’s likely not going to happen, so let’s just say it was nice knowing you, Jay. See you in Oakland next season with your brother.

Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson

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